Monday, August 10, 2015

A scriptural look at John 17

There are many passages in the Bible that are often abused, misused, privately interpreted, and twisted to teach some ungodly or incorrect doctrine. This arises from disobeying the rules that God has set forth in "interpreting" the Bible. God has given mankind certain rules for how to "interpret" His word in such a way that the Holy Spirit will give us understanding in it. If we do not abide by these rules, the Holy Spirit will not lead us into understanding His word.

Rules of interpretation:

Rule #1: Do not "interpret" anything (Gen. 40:8, 2 Pet. 1:20).

Rule #2: Believe what you are reading, have faith in it and do not doubt its authority. Receive it as the word of God, not the word of man (Heb. 4:2, 1 Thes. 2:13, 2 Pet. 1:21, Tit. 2:15).  

Rule #3: Take heed to the Bible "as it is written", do not spiritualize or philosophize the words of scripture. Christ and His ministers preached the Bible plainly as it is written (Matt. 26:24, Mark 1:2, 7:6, 9:13, 14:21, Luke 2:23, 3:4, John 6:31, 12:14, Acts 7:42, 15:15, Rom. 1:17, 2:24, 3:4, 3:10, 4:17, 8:36, 9:13, 9:33, 10:15, 11:8, 11:26, 15:3, 15:9, 15:21, etc.)

Rule #4: Do not alter the words of God by subtracting or adding to them nor be ashamed of them (Deut. 4:2,  Prov. 13:13, 30:5-6, Jer. 23:30, 23:36, Mark 9:38, Luke 9:26, Rev. 22:18-19).

Rule #5: Rightly divide the Bible, acknowledge the proper divisions that exist throughout God's differing dispensations/revelations to man. Put God's dealings in there proper order (2 Tim. 2:15-18).

Rule #6: The Holy Ghost teaches the person that compares scripture with scripture in order to understand it (1 Cor. 2:13, John 6:63).

Rule #7: Handle the word of God in sincerity and honesty. Do not handle it deceitfully, which is "proof texting" and reading what you already believe into the Bible (2 Cor. 2:17, 4:2).

Every heresy in the world of "Christian" religion originates with a failure to obey these 7 rules of Bible study. Those are the rules that the Holy Spirit has set forth in His Book and those are His requirements for you to obey before He will guide you into all truth (John 16:13). Here are some examples...The Baptist Briders will show you John 3:3 to teach that people were born of the Spirit before Calvary and Acts chapter 2. The Brider will ignore scripture rather than compare scripture. If you compare John 1:12-13 with John 3:1-8 with John 7:38-39 the Baptist Brider theology falls apart. The Holy Spirit was not given until Jesus Christ was glorified at the right hand of the Father, those believers in the Gospels were only given the power to become the sons of God, it was not instantaneous like it is under the Grace dispensation (Eph. 1:13). Another example....the "Church of Christ" Campbellites will read their baptismal regeneration beliefs into Romans 6:3-4, Galatians 3:27-28, and Colossians 2:12 to teach that water baptism puts you into Jesus Christ. However, they do this by ignoring the context of the passages and not comparing them with other scriptures. The baptism that puts you into Jesus Christ is done through the faith of the operation of God, performed by God the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:12-18, Col. 2:12). They also ignore the rule of taking the word of God "as it is written", the Campbellite spiritualizes the words "baptized in Jesus Christ" and says that it is really a figurative way of saying that we are baptized into water.

Now that I have gone over God's established rules of Bible study, let's look at one of the most misused and abused passages in the Bible. John chapter 17.

John 17:21-23 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Many of the groups found in "Christianity" affirm that this passage is referring to the formation of the Church which is the Body of Christ in which the members are one spirit with Christ being made members of His flesh, bones, and body (Eph. 1:22-23, 5:30, 1 Cor. 6:15-17). However this is not a Biblical position and it ignores the rules of Bible study. This theory cannot be true scripturally, contextually, or logically.

As all Bible students know, the Church which is the Body of Christ was a "great mystery" "hid in God" since the world began (Eph. 3:1-9, 5:32) that was given to the apostle Paul in due times (Tit. 1:1-3, Rom. 11:13, 15:15-16, 16:25). The mystery of the faith was not made known before Paul's conversion and the 12 apostles of Israel did not know it until Christ sent Paul by revelation to communicate it to them (1 Tim. 3:9, Gal. 1:11-12, 2:1-9). Even then it was hard for them to understand (2 Pet. 3:15-16). The last times we even read about the apostle Peter are when he is being rebuked by Paul (Gal. 2:11-14), agreeing with Paul (Acts 15:7-11), and recommending Paul (2 Pet. 3:15-16). So our first point in disproving the private interpretation of John 17:21-23 is that the doctrine of the Church which is the Body of Christ was a great mystery hid in God until committed to the apostle Paul, it was not revealed to the 12 apostles in John 17. Some honest Bible students have suggested that perhaps the prayer of John 17 did not take place with the 12 apostles present, that there may have been a gap between chapters 16 and 17, but that is nowhere suggested in the text of Scripture. Christ did not pray in the garden alone until chapter 18 verse 1. Besides, the prayer of Matthew 26:39 was in regards to asking the Father to let the cup pass from Him if it was possible, John 17 is about something completely different.

My second point on why John 17:21-23 is not about the Church which is the Body of Christ is because the context states "I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine." (John 17:9) Therefore Christ's prayer cannot be about the formation of the Church which is the Body of Christ, if so, then the Gentiles were not included in being part of it! We (Gentiles) were "without God in the world" according to Ephesians 2:12 and would therefore be excluded from Christ's prayer of John 17. Some fellow Bible students have suggested that Christ's prayer does include the Gentiles (Eph. 2:12) because Christ's prayer later states "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word" (John 17:20). However, that still does not solve the problem of John 17:9 contradicting Ephesians 2:12 and it does not match right division (2 Tim. 2:15). Christ's words "Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word" would not include the Gentiles of Ephesians 2:12 because the Gentiles did not believe through the word of the 12 apostles. The word the 12 apostles had was the "Gospel of the Kingdom" (Matt. 24:14) and not Paul's "Gospel of the Grace of God" (Acts 20:24). Nobody gets into the Body of Christ by believing the Gospel of the Kingdom, which did not include the death/burial/resurrection of Christ (Matt. 16:21-23, Mark 9:31-32, Luke 9:44-45, Luke 18:31-34, John 20:6-10). It was Paul's gospel that put the Gentiles in the Body of Christ, not the "Gospel of the Kingdom" preached by the 12 apostles: "That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister," (Eph. 3:6). This is stated very plainly in 1 Corinthians 4:14-16, "I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you. For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel. Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me." The 12 apostles did not even preach to many Gentiles, their commission of taking the Gospel of the Kingdom to the Gentiles (Matt. 24:14, 28:19) was postponed and will not be carried out until Daniel's 70th Week. The 12 apostles were told to offer the Kingdom to Israel first (Luke 24:47, 24:49, 24:52, Acts 1:6-8). Until Israel received their Kingdom, the 12 apostles would not go and preach to the Gentiles (Acts 8:14, 11:19). It was Paul's job to preach to the Gentile world...

Romans 11:13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:

Romans 15:15-16 Nevertheless, brethren, I have written the more boldly unto you in some sort, as putting you in mind, because of the grace that is given to me of God, That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God, that the offering up of the Gentiles might be acceptable, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost

Galatians 1:
[11] But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
[12] For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ

Christ then sent Paul by revelation to communicate his gospel to the other apostles, after which they agreed not to even go preach to the Gentiles but to let Paul take that responsibility.   

Galatians 2:
[1] Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.
[2] And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.
[3] But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:
[4] And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:
[5] To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
[6] But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man's person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:
[7] But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;
[8] (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)
[9] And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision

My next points on why John 17:21-23 cannot be a reference to the formation of the Body of Christ is that "in Christ" in the Gospel records never means "in the spiritual church which is the Body of Christ" and that the context of John 17 is not the formation of the Body of Christ. The first time recorded in the New Testament scriptures when the term "in Christ" is applied it is in the context of the Christian walk and obedience to the word of God, sanctification. The first time this term is used is in John 6:56, "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." What does it mean to eat Christ's flesh and drink His blood? It is an illustration of living off Christ to sustain you, John 6:57 "As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me." Everyone that lives by Christ as He lived by the Father (obedience) dwells in Christ and Christ in them. This illustration is used by Christ in John 4:34, "Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." Christ's meat was to live by the Father in obedience, and Christ said that if His disciples lived by Him in that same manner then He would dwell in them and they in Him. The Lord likened Himself to a vine that His disciples abode in by obeying His word and bringing forth fruit (John 15:1-5), "I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." Being "in Christ" cannot always be defined as being in the Church which is His Body, that is not how it is used in its first mention and the Gospel of John does not define it as such. The term "in Christ" in its most basic and general definition is referring to obedience/sanctification of the believer. John uses the term "in Christ" in this manner throughout his Gospel and even in his Epistles, notice 1 John 3:24a "And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him." This is the exact same sense as Christ uses the term in John chapter 17:21-23, the context fully supports this.

Here is the whole chapter, look at the context of verses 21-23 and notice that it too is being used in the sense of obedience and sanctification through the word of God.

John 17:
[1] These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:
[2] As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
[3] And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
[4] I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
[5] And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
[6] I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
[7] Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
[8] For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
[9] I pray for them: I pray not for the world (Because the world is not sanctified or obedient to the word of God.), but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.
[10] And all mine are thine, and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them (The disciples glorify Christ by keeping His word and bringing forth fruit.).
[11] And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
[12] While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled (Christ is about to leave the world and is praying that His disciples will remain sanctified and separate from the world when He leaves.).
[13] And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
[14] I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (The disciples were following Christ and obeying the word of God, they were one, separate from the world.)
[15] I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
[16] They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
[17] Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.
[18] As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.
[19] And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.
[20] Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
[21] That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. (Obviously this is referring to the same sense as John 4:34, 6:56-57, and 15:1-5. Putting the disciples in a spiritual, invisible church seated in Heaven would not cause the world to believe in Christ. The only way verse 21 makes sense would be if it is referring to the disciples being in Christ by being sanctified by the word of God and bringing forth fruit....that is the only way the world would believe on Christ, by seeing the fruit of the disciples. The world wouldn't even know about the spiritual/invisible church.)
[22] And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
[23] I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. ("
that the world may know that thou hast sent me", see comments above.)
[24] Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
[25] O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me.
[26] And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them

That is the only way you can look at John 17:21-23 when applying the 7 rules of Bible study. The passage cannot be referring to the Church which is the Body of Christ according to the definition of the terms, the context, and logic. If someone says that verses 21-23 are referring to the Body of Christ then that is just not true, it is nowhere in the context and that it is not what the passage says. Simply stating that it refers to the Body of Christ does not make it true.....

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.

Proverbs 14:15 The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.   


  1. Fine study, Hoss. Excellent point about the first reference to "in Christ" occurring before the body of Christ was ever formed or revealed. I think that the last reference to it may be in Rev. 14:13, "...Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord...," and the context is the dead in the great tribulation (Rev. 14:9-12), not the church age, so it's clearly a "kingdom" and "church age" concept.

  2. Hoss just had a look at this and been searching around for something concise on the text. Good sound exegesis, like it a lot, and defendable.
    Thanks heaps for your labour.
    Trevor J
    New Zealand


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